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these ladies represents the church; she reveals the meaning of Hermas's vision of the building of a large tower constructed on water, built by male angels and supported by seven female figures-Faith, Continence, Simplicity, Knowledge, Innocence, Reverence, and Love.[ ] Another young man explains the meaning of the visions of the church in the changing form of a woman; revelation is central to Christian faith, and dependent on it:

"Why do you ask for instant revelations in your prayer? Be careful lest you injure your flesh by heavy requests. The present revelations are all you need. Can you see greater revelations than those you have seen?" In answer, I said to him, "Sir, I am only asking for a revelation complete in every detail about the three forms of the elderly lady." For answer, he said to me: "How long are you going to be without perception? It is your doubts that make you so and the failure to have your heart directed to the Lord."^18]

Accounts of martyrdom lent themselves perfectly to this mode; the martyr and his death became at once the enactment and the symbol of Christian perfection. "Upon Polycarp's entrance into the arena there came a voice from heaven, 'Be brave, Polycarp, and act like a man.'" Polycarp, martyred at Smyrna in the mid-second century, prays before the pyre is lit: "I bless Thee, because I may have a part, along with the martyrs, in the chalice of Thy Christ, 'unto resurrection in the eternal life,' resurrection both of soul and body in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit. May I be received today as a rich and acceptable sacrifice."[19] Polycarp's death is given a meaning and made a part of the whole mystery of Christian dispensation, in which things are no longer as they seem on the surface. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon

[17] Shepherd , Visions 1-8. No doubt significantly, Continence alone is said to "look like a man."

Figure 3.

The Good Shepherd. Catacomb of St. Callistus. Third century A.D.

(Photograph: Scala)

Figure 3.

The Good Shepherd. Catacomb of St. Callistus. Third century A.D.

(Photograph: Scala)

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